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Problem for GOP: Where’s the passion?

By POLITICO
July 6, 2010

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan: Republicans ain't laughing (Reuters)

Republican senators have already blamed the breezy confirmation process for Elena Kagan on simple math, saying Kagan’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is already ensured with 58 Democrats in the Senate.

But the GOP has more than just a math problem with Kagan. It has a passion problem — the party, which has used judicial nominations to stoke the culture wars for more than a decade, appears to have lost its edge on judges.

Now some conservatives worry that if Republicans can’t gin up a real battle over a left-leaning high court nominee from President Barack Obama in an election year, how can they be expected to grind out fights on dozens of lower-court nominees who are getting lifetime appointments to the federal bench?

“Maybe we have fallen down on the job,” Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told POLITICO. “I think a lot of Republicans tend to say, ‘Well, the president gets whoever he nominates.’”

It’s a striking departure from just five years ago, when judicial nominations were such a hot-button political issue that then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) threatened to fundamentally restructure Senate rules to break judicial filibusters. Senators spent an all-night session debating judges, and Republicans raised tons of money from their base.

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